If you are wondering why newspapers are failing at a spectacularly fast rate (the San Francisco Chronicle is the latest periodical on the brink of folding) then perhaps the attitude displayed in this UK Times article by Andy Pemberton helps to explain part of the reason. A Luddite attitude towards new technology. Just as many newspapers were (and still are) slow to incorporate other web tools such as embedded video into their sites, they are now scratching their heads over Twitter as well as displaying antagonism towards it as you can see:
"Arse, poo and widdle.” With this unholy trinity of coy expletives, Stephen Fry introduced us to the joys of Twitter earlier this month. Fry was stuck in a lift and posted a “tweet” about it. His naughty digital missive, together with a photo taken on a camera phone, put him at the vanguard of the latest social-networking phenomenon, which everyone from Hollywood to Wall Street is talking about.
Launched in 2006, Twitter is the inescapable, hot tech product. It boasts 6m users — teeny compared to Facebook’s 150m — but its audience has surged by more than 1,000% in the past year. Twitter’s most famous advocate is Barack Obama, whose Twitter account has 265,970 followers, more than anyone else. Fry is the second most followed tweeter, with 174,924; celebrities such as Jonathan Ross, Shaquille O’Neal, Lance Armstrong, Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan trail behind. (“Jesus Christ” is listed as having 33 accounts, by the way, while “The Devil” has 189. “Richard Dawkins” has three.)
Right now, the San Francisco-based company that owns Twitter is valued at $250m, even though, in start-up argot, it is “pre-revenue”. Its inventors, Biz Stone, 34 — who describes Twitter communication as “like a flock of birds choreographed in flight” — and Evan Williams, 36, recently rejected an offer from Facebook to buy their company for $500m. Yet despite the big money and the enthusiasm swirling around his product, Williams (who also coined the term “blogger”) has admitted many are bewildered when they first encounter Twitter. “We’ve heard time and time again: ‘I really don’t get it — why would anyone use it?’ ”
It’s a fair question. What kind of person shares information with the world the minute they get it? And just who are the “followers” willing to tune into this rolling news service of the ego?
"Rolling news service of the ego?" Let me guess. Andy Pemberton is not exactly a fan of Twitter. In fact this twit strives to show that twitter users might suffer from deep psychological problems:
The clinical psychologist Oliver James has his reservations. “Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”
See that twitterers (or is it tweeters)? You wouldn't be twittering (or tweeting) if you had a healthy self-esteem.
“We are the most narcissistic age ever,” agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. “Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won’t cure it.”
And you tweeters are bacially insecure too.
For Alain de Botton, author of Status Anxiety and the forthcoming The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Twitter represents “a way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive. It’s like when a parent goes into a child’s room to check the child is still breathing. It is a giant baby monitor.”
Is that why tweets are often so breathtakingly mundane? Recently, the rock star John Mayer posted a tweet that read: “Looking for my Mosely Tribes sunglasses.” Who wants to tell the world that? “The primary fantasy for most people is that we can be as connected as we were in the womb, a situation of total closeness,” says de Botton. “When people who are very close are talking, they ‘twitter away’: ‘It’s a bit dusty here’ or ‘There’s a squirrel in the garden.’ They don’t say, ‘What do you think of Descartes’s second treatise?’ It doesn’t matter what people say on their tweets — it’s not the point.”
I promise that I have not yet twittered (or tweeted) about staring at my own navel...but give me time. In any case your humble correspondent has just recently started twittering (or tweeting---hey, I'm new at this game) and finds it (after weeding out the mundane posts) to be a useful tool for information gathering that could be utilized by the U.K. Times and other newspapers. In fact, I found I found this very story via my tweet (or is it twit?) list and plan to post a link to my NewsBusters analysis there for my followers (I prefer to think of them as my loyal acolytes)...if I don't provide a detailed description of my own navel instead.
And for those of you "willing to tune into this rolling service of my ego": twitter.com/pjcomix